Category Archives: Black Lives Matter

Can I really rest?: Identity Fragility

Can I really rest?: Identity Fragility by Chai-Yoel Korn

In the current state of the world, the world troubles with faith, justice, leadership, politics and traumas. Our world is in fight and flight, how we are responding could talk to our sense of identity fragility. I have been thinking and processing a lot around “Identity Fragility”.

Identity Fragility

‘Identity fragility’ is the: defensiveness, denial and invalidation that characterises some human’s responses to being antisemitic, biphobia, classist, disablist, homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, sexist, transphobic. I want to make clear that discrimination is not on some hierarchy and perhaps we need to learn to understand each other by hearing the other’s pain more. As a friend pointed out to me thinking about identity fragility helps us think about the nuance of identity politics.

This takes Robin Diangelo’s concept of ‘White Fragility’ from their book “White Fragility: why it’s hard for white people to talk about racism” (2018) further. By doing so I hope it helps people to know that identity fragility is a universal experience. In their book they define White Fragility as: “White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress be-comes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviours such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviours, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium”.

Can I rest?

Being challenged is not comfortable for any of us, yes, we are only human we all make mistakes, but ‘identity fragility’ can become toxic as humans if we don’t check what privileges we have and that another person or community group that we don’t have lived experience of, may not. We only learn as humans by listening, not immediately responding, by going away and thinking why is the person challenging me and then coming back taking some accountability, we only truly take accountability by expressing what we have learnt and what might do differently in the future. Too often the wrong people are being silenced on social media or via WhatsApp groups, we can only truly understand the other persons lived experience by truly listening and understanding why we are getting defensive, being defensive talks only to our identity fragility.

Here I want to take from “What Is White Fragility? Plus 5 Key Steps for Overcoming It” blog on Healthline, medically reviewed by Bethany Juby, PsyD (Healthline written by Crystal Raypole on June 13, 2022, cited examples further and by doing so making them more universal to our human experience.

These ‘Identity Fragility’ feelings are often expressed by:

  • Angrily insisting you aren’t any of these that someone may be asking you to check your privilege about: antisemitic, biphobia, classist, disablist, homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, sexist, transphobic. E.g.: As a white person I need to accept that I can walk through the world easily as I blend into the white majority in the world, whereas if you think of the Jewish part of my identity and my ethnic looks due to this, I stand out more in the white community. I recall being on a course at the beginning of my therapist training, being accused of being racist. I feel shame for how I reacted to this, but acknowledging that of course I can be racist, this is where my learning began, and change happened, it can be liberating.
  • Demanding when being challenged why “everything has to be about the intersectional privilege that you are being challenged about”. This is often due to your personal discomfort about being accused of being discriminatory and therefore offensive.
  • Erasure or silencing the person challenging you, by starting an argument or twisting events to make things seem as if the other person is in the wrong. This is also a form of gaslighting the other person, it often makes the other person reactionary for a reason and is a form of discrimination. If we have felt a sense of erasure or silencing with our own identity, rather than passing that on to another person or community group, we should be looking at opening a dialogue rather than shutting it down because of our discomfort. That allows for developing and growing.
  • As a queer and Jewish person, I often express my internalised antisemitism and homophobia by making a joke of the stereotypes that are unique to the expression of my identity. Or I gaslight myself as to whether I have a right to speak up when something I witness is not okay or wrong.
  • Crying, therefore moving away from being challenged and making it about our self.
  • Explaining how guilty, ashamed or sad you feel. Rather than taking accountability for what you are saying or even saying let me go away to check why the other person is challenging you. You are reactionary as you are feeling uncomfortable about what you are being challenged about. It is not the other persons responsibility to make your discomfort okay.
  • Remaining silent or silencing the person doing the challenging due to your identity vulnerability being exposed. An example of this in my own life is being asked to use my walking stick rather than my walking frame, as other people may ask too many questions, this is not my discomfort about being disabled, but it is hurtful, it does take away the safety and trust that I may have in that relationship.
  • Just changing or avoiding the subject, or not acknowledging being challenged. An example of this for me is being very open about my disability, in a short-term relationship I had the person I was dating had a large reaction to ‘Grace’ the name I give my walking frame, this reaction made me feel ashamed of being disabled, it was not my shame but the projected shame of the person I was feeling on my disability, it was not my identity fragility.
  • Making a joke about what the person is saying or a particular community, by doing so undermining the person or community group you are talking about. This is not about the person challenging you making a big fuss about nothing, it is not political correctness, it is about your identity fragility. I.E: why you need to make a joke about something at the expense of the other person’s or community groups identity.
  • Not understanding or wanting to understand the additional systemic barriers a particular community face or wanting to listen to their lived experience.
  • Telling someone else that you read an article or a piece of research that you don’t have lived experience of and therefore ‘I know what I’m talking about’ this is invalidating the other persons lived experience, it does not show you are truly interested, learning or open to developing an understanding of something outside your own lived experience, it also can be seen as gas lighting and therefore discriminatory.
  • Being lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) today is different to where we were twenty-five years ago. There is much more legislation and social policy that protect LGB people. There is better access to support where needed. Whereas for trans and non-binary there are still many more systemic barriers, how politically and the media talks about trans and non-binary people is where we were with the lesbian, gay or bisexual 25 years ago. As a queer person I have privilege but as a non-binary I have less.
  • As a male assigned at birth (AMAB) and white person, I have the privilege of cisgender passing. When I walk down the road and my non-binary gender not being noticed or being seen as non-binary. That is  a privilege it does not still protect me from the transphobia that I can experience in the conversation with the other, when I read a transphobic article about transgender people, or someone might treat me             differently when they find out I am non-binary.
  • I was not named after a Chinese tea (although I always like a good Chai Late), when people don’t  realise, I am Jewish, find out that I have a Hebrew name, but then if my Jewish identity becomes a problem in any relationship, this talks to the other person’s identity fragility. It is not my responsibility to make their reaction to this okay.

Non-intended expression of identity fragility

These expressions of ‘identity fragility’, may not be intended to be offensive, that does not make it okay when it happens or that we don’t take accountability if someone challenges us, they can be seen as still harmful and sometimes can be highly toxic. ‘Identity fragility’ centres on your feelings and moves away from the other person lived experience of discrimination and their experience of walking in their shoes through the world. Mainly also this gets in the way of productive open-hearted conversations and prevents real learning.

People often have a reaction to word ‘privilege’; it would be weird not to. The Collins English Dictionary (2019) definition of privilege as:

  1. A benefit or advantage granted only to certain people.
  2. The opportunity to do something which gives you great satisfaction and which most people never have the chance to.
  3. The power and advantages that come with great wealth or high social class.

Take a breath and think why before reacting. It is more indicative of own our sense of fragility and nothing to do with the person stating we have ‘privilege’ or to indeed check our privilege.

In the book “The Politics of Trauma” by Staci K Haines we are introduced to the idea of Somatics: “Somatics understands both the individual and collective as a combination of biological, evolutionary, emotional, and psychological aspects, shaped by social and historical norms, and adaptive to a wide array of both resilient and oppressive forces. Somatics is the intentional change process by which we can embody transformation, individually and collectively. Embodied transformation is foundational change that shows our actions, ways of being, relating, and perceiving. It is transformation that sustains over time” (P.19, 2019).


Kimberley Krenshaw coined the term Intersectionality: “The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and independent systems of discrimination or disadvantages”. From this we can understand that being understood to have privilege is not a bad thing, still in some areas you may not have privilege, but don’t use that to invalidate or silence someone’s else’s lived experience.

At the end of the day, these can often reinforce the individuals or community groups experience of discrimination. As research indicates, this can cause deep and lasting emotional, physical, social and mental health harm. Using the framework of intersectional identity, lets us know that we are not all equal in society and as humans it is our responsibility to check where we have privilege, check our own reactions when being challenged about our privileges and to challenge why our responses may be considered as discriminatory.

I am also not a perfect human, who is? When making a mistake I take compassionate accountability about my identity vulnerabilities and must think about my own identity fragility, so I can hold myself to as much account that I do other people. I also need to think about the wider effects on me and my intersectional identity, my own experience of marginalisation, trauma and what I have internalised from our wider world, when challenged by some else’s challenge of my lived experience.

Boris Johnson and the burka

Boris Johnson’s recent comment about Muslim women wearing the nicab, hijab or burka, and his stance that an apology is not needed have got me thinking…I’m left with some deep concerns:

1. That as a person in a position of authority and in the public eye he hasn’t learned some skills that involve thinking before speaking. Freedom of speech has limitations depending on our role;

2. That his words show a troubling lack of awareness of how he might cause offence or even care that he might have caused offence;

3. That many people in positions of authority, particularly within politics lack understanding of their own place of privilege and therefore do not understand the place of oppression for others. Latest reports are concentrating on his remark being a “joke”. I doubt ‘skills’ as a comedian were on the job spec;

4. That many people in positions of authority, particularly within politics have come through boarding school education. Whilst they may have experienced superior education, the system of ‘privileged abandonment’ of boarding school often causes a shutting down of the child’s emotions which are rarely recovered without the aid of therapy. Subsequently, responding to others’ emotions also proves too difficult. What this generates within the political system, for example, is a severe lack of empathy both for self and others in less fortunate or different circumstances.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t speak out on a political issue; I’m ever mindful of my role as a psychotherapist and the boundaries that maintain safety for both those I work with and myself. This story has got me thinking though, when is enough enough? When do we learn to tolerate difference of race, faith, gender, sexuality, ability etc.? When do people in places of authority learn to respect others as fellow humans rather than to de-humanise? On the other side of the political fence, Jeremy Corbin refuses to accept a definition of anti-Semitism approved of largely by the very people who have felt the blows of injustice. Why not listen and learn instead of imposing from that place ‘authority’? We don’t all have to share the same views; surely there are ways in which we can communicate our differences of opinion without ridiculing each other or inciting hatred?

Given that tolerance, compassion, and compromise are not often filtering down through the political parties and beyond, I’m wondering what we can do in the therapeutic community to foster these characteristics in a way that impacts wider society so that freedom of speech can be honoured in a more humane way?

The more we can understand our own places of privilege and oppression, what this is rooted in and how this develops, the more we can educate ourselves to be open-minded, tolerant, and empathic to those who are different or hold different views to ourselves. In the end we are all people, we all hurt, we all cry, we all laugh. As a people we would work so much better united than constantly pointing out that some else does it differently to us and is therefore wrong.

Black Lives Matter: It begins at home

Brunhild Abrahams 6 July 2020

My experience of watching the video of the white Police Officer killing a black man named, George Floyd by kneeling on his neck because of his skin colour was like watching a horror movie based on a real life story, streaming live! I was shocked, emotional and felt sick to the core but knew the importance of watching the video clip to the end and acknowledging my feelings.

I’ve realised that as a South African mixed-race child now an adult, I have become so accustomed to racism in SA, which is scary.  It also makes me feel really angry not just because it exists but because I am still allowing it to affect me. The first memory that popped up was that we could not share a public swimming pool with white people.  On the other hand, whenever the bin Lorries would come around, adults would scare us as children and say the ‘booty’ (a black man) would catch us if we didn’t listen. I must admit since experiencing life in the UK, I felt a sense of equality and diversity and became more confident of my voice as a person of mixed-race.

Then I questioned what impact could that have had on the mixed and black races of SA?! Well, this is my thesis to the sad and realistic sub-conscious outcome; even though our mothers and fathers (my biological father was one of them) protested against racism, they were still unable to bring changes because of the law.  As children, we might have learned to accept the discrimination and unfair behaviour from white people because our parents had to, which could have made us feel hopeless and helpless. Growing up, we might have internalised that behaviour which might have ‘crippled’ the majority of us sub-consciously, believing that we are incapable of standing up for ourselves or being leaders of any kind etc. Even though I can acknowledge the pain and suffering racism have caused me and my race, there was still a possibility for us to thrive and succeed through education and hard work, where for the black race, it was made nearly impossible.


It is 2020 and we are still, like we’ve heard so many times on the news and social media, after 400 years+ dealing with systemic racism that is rooted into the psyche of the people?! With the exception of some white people, who gave white people the right to make THE decision to segregate us all as a human race, to treat people unfairly ONLY because of the colour of their skin, to create economic exploitation with slavery??!! It really hit hard when a 36 year old black man was sobbing and pleading to a 16 year old at a protest for their generation to come up with a better way of fighting for justice because his generation and the ones before were unable to because, he said, white people will always try to come up with a better way.  It should be simple right? If white people could learn how to create racism, they can unlearn it because they weren’t born with it = NO EXCUSE FOR CHANGE so let’s have a serious chat and demand that change now, not later! Not just racism but also the impact poverty, Covid-19, lost of employment and healthcare has on Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups including Native Americans and the LGBTQ+ community.

Sadly it was at the cost of George Floyd’s privacy when he passed away for the world, the BAME & LGBTQ+ community to metaphorically see how systemic racism has its ‘knee on all of our necks’.  I’ve read in an article a black man consciously made a decision to never leave his house without his daughters or his dog because that would present to the Police that he is a family man and a good citizen. Is that not an ‘emotional jail’ they are trapped in every single day of their lives and WHY??!! Wouldn’t that be exhausting, painful, cause enrage in anyone if they had to live in fear only because of the colour of their skin?

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!! IT’S TIME FOR A SUSTAINABLE CHANGE!! That is why the world came together to protest and fight for justice and is unapologetically demanding for transformative policy change. Starting with basic human needs (Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs), respect, inclusion, compassion = Equality, Diversity, Justice = Unprecedented reckoning of the ongoing legacy of slavery economic reform for equality. THE POWER LIES WITH THE PEOPLE.

 I would recommend everyone to watch an Anti-Racism Exercise called the “Blue eyes/Brown eyes” experiment illustrated by Jane Elliott, a teacher of 25 years teaching race relations I get emotional and have a sense of relief every time I watch it because it’s the way Jane highlights, as a white woman with blue eyes, how racism is engrained into society.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela

This is an opportunity for every person around the globe to take responsibility and check where we need to educate ourselves on racism and take action with the focus of sustainability and breaking segregation. WHERE BETTER THAN TO START AT HOME? I have learnt so much (a new ‘language’) over the last couple of weeks and realised, even I have some white privilege. Before my son walks out of the front door, I will ask him not to forget to greet, say please, thank you but a black parent has to ask their son to not wear a hoody, to remember the goal is to get home safely and not put their hands in their pockets, etc.  I know I can rely on the Police if I had to call them so I can’t imagine what a black person must feel like if they don’t get a similar fair service.

I am definitely educating my children on racism, equality and diversity because my son has already experienced racism and it can happen to anyone at any time. I will take a page from my parent’s book by the way they’ve brought me up by taking us into a township mainly consisting of black residence.  There, we’ve met a warm, loving, strong and well respected black woman who introduced us to their culture and everyday living. Thanks to them, I am able to look at humanity with an eye of equality, respect and understanding not just by words but first by feeling, emotion and deed.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, so why don’t we put that into action as a human race, look out for one another and form a multi-cultural community.  Uncover the hidden prejudice that shapes what we see, think and do to make sure we, our children and future generations will be treated with justice and dignity because all that we are really seeking for at the end is equality and not revenge.  So, why not invite your friends of different race and cultures to your home or community centre not just for a lunch or a BBQ but with the meaning of educating each other and showing real interest on how rich and valuable our differences are to one another. 

“The time is always right to do what is right” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Book suggestions:

  • Biased – Jennifer Eberhardt, PhD
  • How To Be An Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi
  • Our Time Is Now – Stacey Abrams